Remaking a dangerous craving: Pregnancy-safe sushi

While awaiting the birth of my kids, I kept wanting the Japanese rolls -- so I found a risk-free recipe

Topics: Guest Chef, Kitchen Challenge, International cuisine, Food,

Remaking a dangerous craving: Pregnancy-safe sushi

This winning entry for the Salon Kitchen Challenge – in which we asked readers to come up with their most interesting mayonnaise-based recipe  — comes to us courtesy of Linda Shiue. Check out this week’s Challenge here. We haven’t had a chance to try this recipe out yet, but we’d love to hear about it if you do!

When you’re pregnant, your body no longer belongs to you. Everything you do affects the baby, starting with what you eat and drink. Everything you think and feel seems to come from a part of your body you don’t normally think about otherwise, what you could call the Control Womb. The earliest signs of pregnancy all relate to eating. There’s the unbelievable hunger, which is far more insatiable than necessary for the only 300 extra calories a developing baby needs. (I know, only 300 calories?) There’s morning sickness, which might exist simply to stop you from eating 24-7. And there are cravings, one of the most powerful forces of all.

During my pregnancies, my cravings overwhelmed me, and led to both food aversions and preferences. All were surprising. It was simply unfair that chocolate, of all things, tasted like metallic cardboard to me. And the things I craved, while tasty, were far from my usual fare. I normally like to eat healthy food, prepared either in the simple and fresh style of California cuisine, or from a wide variety of ethnic flavors. But when I was pregnant, I wanted, needed and could not stop thinking about foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, cheeseburgers and milkshakes. I also had some dangerous cravings, for things that are off limits to pregnant women because of the danger of infection. This included tuna, brie and, worst of all, raw fish.

I always liked sushi. Now I felt like I needed it, but couldn’t have it. It seems obvious that raw fish might not be the safest choice for a pregnant woman, with the possibility, though slim, of harboring parasites, as well as the usual bacteria. So I didn’t succumb to my true desire for sake (salmon), hamachi (yellowtail), and maguro (tuna), especially spicy tuna rolls. Instead I stuck with the cooked choices, all safe to eat: unagi (eel), tamago (egg), and California rolls.

Two favorites at any sushi bar are spicy tuna rolls and California rolls. What these two have in common, besides being fusion sushi, is that they both make use of a surprising ingredient: mayonnaise. You can use any mayonnaise for these rolls (note to the pregnant: homemade mayonnaise carries the risk of salmonella and is off limits), but if you can, Japanese mayonnaise is the way to go. The most famous brand is Kewpie, which comes in a familiar plastic squeeze bottle with a red top and a sketch of that adorable Kewpie doll.

It’s available at Japanese groceries and even online. It tastes a bit sweeter than standard mayonnaise, and includes a couple of different ingredients. Unlike regular mayonnaise, Japanese mayonnaise contains rice vinegar and (gasp!) MSG. Don’t shake your head at the MSG: It provides the umami that makes Kewpie the runaway choice for Japanese food. And its sweetness is a nice foil to the flavors of sushi: the briny taste of raw fish, the strident saltiness of soy sauce, and the sharp heat of pickled ginger and wasabi.

So here’s a recipe that I wish I had thought of when I was pregnant: spicy California rolls. Without any raw fish, they’re safe even during pregnancy, but with a spicy kick that could have fooled me into thinking I was eating a forbidden spicy tuna roll. This is a great way to enjoy the magic of Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise. Umami!

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Spicy California Rolls

Makes 4 rolls, totaling 32 pieces

4 cups prepared sushi rice (see below)
2 ripe avocados, cut into strips
16 crab sticks (imitation crab meat)
2 seedless cucumbers, cut into matchstick-size pieces
4 sheets nori (dried seaweed)
8 tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise
8 tablespoons white sesame seeds
Spicy Sauce (see below)

1. Unroll a bamboo sushi mat and cover with plastic wrap.

2. Place a sheet of nori on top of the mat. Spread the sushi rice over the sheet of nori, press firmly, and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the surface. Turn the whole thing over so that the nori is on top. (If you don’t have a bamboo rolling mat, just use a sheet of plastic wrap on a flat work surface; it won’t be as easy to roll perfectly-shaped rolls, but will still be delicious.)

2. About 1/3 of the way up from the bottom, place the avocado, cucumber and crab sticks in lengthwise lines, so that every cut will include some of each. Lightly coat the filling with mayonnaise.

3. Roll the mat (or rice/nori sheet) forward; gathering all the fillings in the first roll and pressing firmly into a cylinder. (Be careful not to actually roll the plastic wrap into the sushi roll!)

4. Remove sushi roll from the mat.

5. Cut sushi roll into eight pieces.

6. Squirt a dab (or more) of Spicy Sauce on the cut sushi.

Accompaniments: soy sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger, some extra Spicy Sauce.

Sushi Rice

Expert tip No. 1: To cook sushi rice, it is important to remember that the rice should be cooked with less water than usual, and vinegar should be added while the rice is hot. Here is how to cook the perfect sushi rice.

2 cups Japanese rice, such as Nishiki brand
2¾ cups water
1/2 cup rice vinegar (unflavored)
2½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1. Wash the rice and cook in water in a rice cooker or on the stove.

2. Heat the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a pan on low heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool the vinegar mixture.

3. When rice is cooked, turn it into a large bowl and season it with the vinegar mixturew while still hot. Be careful to mix lightly so you don’t mash the rice. Gently turn the spatula as if scooping the rice rather than blending it. Expert tip No. 2: While folding vinegar into the rice, cool the rice using a hand fan. Fanning the rice prevents it from becoming overly sticky, and also adds luster.

4. Use sushi rice immediately; don’t store it in the refrigerator. Cover it with a damp cloth if you won’t be using it for 10 minutes or more, to prevent it from drying out.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Spicy Sauce

Makes about 2/3 cup

8 tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise
8 teaspoons Sriracha or other hot sauce, or to taste

1. Put mayonnaise and hot sauce into a bowl, and combine with a whisk until well blended.

2. Store in a squirt bottle for easiest use.


Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>